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How To Prepare For Maternity Leave as a Teacher [Or Any Leave]

Are you a teacher who is preparing for maternity leave or any other type of leave? Going on leave can feel overwhelming, especially when it comes to preparing your students and colleagues for your absence. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing tips and ideas for how to prepare for maternity leave as a teacher, as well as a free checklist download to help you get organized. We'll cover everything from preparing students for maternity leave and tips for organizing your classroom and materials. These strategies will help you feel confident and prepared to take leave, guilt and stress-free! So let's get started!

A Little Anecdote

When I first shared the news of being pregnant with my students, they were so excited for me. There was cheering and about 20 questions being fired at me all at once. Then, everything came screeching to a halt when one student, let’s call her Betty, asked when they would be getting a new teacher.

The thought hadn't even crossed any other students' mind but Betty had had a teacher who was pregnant before. All eyes were on me as I quickly stated that there were many months before that would be happening. I also stressed that it was important to enjoy the time we did have together.

Preparing Students For Maternity Leave

If you're preparing for a leave in advance, shift the focus away from your absence and instead focus on enjoying the time you have together with your students. I found that that helped a lot in the upcoming months. I reminded them often that we still had many months together and lots of learning to do.

As my maternity leave got closer, students had a lot of questions. They wanted to know how much longer I would be there, if I got to choose the next teacher, and if I would be back. In talking with my school counsellor, she suggested that I be as transparent as I felt comfortable being. To share with them that although I wasn’t planning on being off until February, things can change. It may need to be sooner than what we expected. Honesty is the best policy instead of making promises you can’t keep. I am glad that she gave me this advice because I did end up having to go on medical leave in January which was earlier than I expected.

In preparing students for maternity leave, or any leave, it's important to prepare your students for things be different while you're away. Reassure them that change is a normal part of life and that they are equipped to handle the change. This helps students to have an open mind when the replacement teacher or substitute teacher comes in and things feel different. They will be prepared for that change and it’s a reminder that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Lastly, I tried to avoid being in the middle of a unit, as this can make the transition to a new teacher more challenging for students. Try to wrap up any ongoing projects or units before you leave, or consider leaving your students with some fun and engaging review activities to keep them engaged and learning.

Teacher Leave Prep checklist freebie to help with how to prepare for maternity leave as a teacher which is laying on orange notebook and leaf file folder

Sharing Important Information

Below, I’ll go into more detail about the important information that I collected and shared with the replacement teacher. Of course, it’s their choice what they would like to do with the information but I thought it would be helpful to fill them in as much as possible.

This information can be shared in a written document on Google Docs or in a binder. Informaton could also be relayed through a sit down meeting if you have the opportunity to meet the substitute or replacement teacher.

Parent Contact List

I asked for permission from students’ parents to hand their contact information off to the new teacher. I handed off the parent contact information sheets that I collected at the beginning of the year. If you don’t have parent contact sheets to share, you could also just pull emails off into a Google Doc or Google Sheet and share electronically.

Classroom Routines

Sharing your main classroom routines can be very helpful for continuity for both your current students and for the next teacher. They may decide to tweak or change some of the routines but it gives everyone a good starting point. Some of the major routines that I shared were our morning and end of day routines, how we choose class jobs, how I change seating arrangements, and how I run literacy and math rotations.

Classroom Management System(s)

Sharing your classroom management systems is another great way to enable continuity during your leave. I provided information about the two classroom management systems that I use: house points as my a whole class system and daily student-led behaviour tracking as an individual system.

Student Specific Information

Providing necessary student specific information to help the transition between teachers is helpful. I only left the necessary information to let the new teacher build her own relationships with students. I noted information regarding students’ attendance, behaviour strategies that work well, which strategies helped which students academically, which students benefit from more frequent check-ins, etc.

Curricular Progress

Sharing up-to-date curricular progress is one of the most important things you can do to ensure continuity. It will make things easier when handing your class off to the next teacher. To do this, I went over my year at a glance Google Doc to ensure that it was up-to-date. I had to make a few updates for units that I got through quicker than I thought I would when planning for the year during back to school season. 

Don’t have a year at a glance template? No problem! Click here to grab the ultimate planning freebie which includes a year at a glance template, in Google Docs.

On my year at a glance plans, I highlighted any units that I completed in one colour and highlighted units that we were partway through, in another colour. For any units that we were partway through, I printed off the corresponding curriculum document. Then, I highlighted which outcomes or strands I had already taught so that the teacher had a clear indication of where to pick up within those units.

Teacher Leave Prep Checklist screenshots and text that reads "Grab the editable Google Docs checklist to keep you on track leading up to your leave"

To-Dos

There will be some differences in my to-do- list for how to prepare for maternity leave as a teacher and your to do list. This is because every district and administration team might have different requirements for teachers going on leave. I am hopeful that my “to-dos” can give you a good starting point!

Share News of Leave

Sharing the news of a leave is personal and, therefore, it’s your choice how you go about it. First and foremost, once you have proper documentation in place, talking to your district and administrator is a must. Afterwards, you can decide how you wish to proceed in telling coworkers, your students, and your students’ families. 

I had a very hard time coming up with “the right words” when emailing students’ parents about the news that I would be taking my maternity leave early. For that reason, I’ll share the email that I wrote to them here in case that helps anyone.

Dear 4E Families, 

Some medical concerns have arisen and, unfortunately, I will not be able to return to the classroom after Christmas break. I've been assured that I, and baby, will be okay but that additional rest is required at this time.

Our principal will notify families when she receives information of the new teacher being placed in 4E.

I have not shared this news with students, as I am not in the classroom today. I am hopeful to be able to be back tomorrow to spend the last few days before break with students.

Although I had wished to have been able to be back after Christmas and stay a while longer, I am so blessed to have had such a beautiful class. Your children are all truly wonderful and I've loved getting to know every single one of them. ❤

I will miss them very much but I will return in the spring to visit with my new little one. 👶

Mrs. Evancio

Email sent in December, before winter break, announcing my leave starting in January.

Grade Completed Work

Keeping up on grading leading up to your leave will help you stay on top of things. Avoid having a massive pile of grading to get through or a huge pile to pass on to the next teacher. This is also helpful because you can then pass on the grades, as well.

Update Student Documentation

Over the course of a couple of weeks, I went over all student documentation that was required of me by my district, ensuring everything was as up-to-date. For me, that meant updating our district literacy spreadsheet and students literacy folders, student instructional support plans (ISPs), ESL benchmarks, etc.

Organize Files & Classroom

Before handing over my school keys, I did a final check of commonly used areas to make sure that things weren’t in disarray. There were a few areas in which I reorganized and emptied [like my teacher desk] to provide a clean slate for the next teacher.

Personal Items & Resources

Fellow coworkers who have taken a lengthy leave suggested taking home any materials that I was worried about getting damaged or going missing, so that's what I did.

Resources & Items to Share with Replacement

It's important to share are any resources that are school-owned resources such as any teachers guides, district resources, etc. I also shared the class schedule, my year at a glance plans, any grades that I’ve recorded so far this year as well as anecdotal notes (this is especially helpful if report card season is looming). You can also share any personal resource files that you feel comfortable sharing. Of course, this isn’t required but it can keep things consistent for students. For example, my class used the same morning meeting slides every morning so I will be sharing those so that the next teacher can use those, if they wish. 

Teacher Leave Prep Checklist Freebie

Don't forget to grab your editable teacher leave prep freebie in Google Docs. This checklist will help you stay organized as you navigate how to prepare for maternity leave as a teacher.

In conclusion, going on leave as a teacher can feel like a daunting task, but with some preparation and organization, it doesn't have to be overwhelming. By following the strategies, tips and ideas outlined in this blog post, and using the free checklist provided, you will ensure a smooth transition for you and your students, and allow you to begin your leave feeling organized, prepared, and stress-free.

Amber Evancio

Amber Evancio

I'm Amber Evancio and I currently teach grade four in Northern Canada. I'm passionate about helping teachers lead their classes with efficiency and love.

Welcome!

I’m Amber Evancio and I currently teach grade four in Northern Canada. I’m passionate about helping teachers lead their classes with efficiency and love.

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